I was reading a post by Cesar Brea who notes the coolness of the Event Share Framework (ESF) for RSS. ESF allows blog/news feeds to include data about events—start time, duration, location, and so forth—and can be easily integrated with calendaring applications. For example, you could subscribe to a calendar feed of events in your workplace and have them automatically show up on your Outlook calendar.
Cesar notes some ways to increase the value of sharable calendars:
Imagine a site called calendar.com that aggregates RSS-ESF feeds (the domain name is taken, btw, even though no live site's up). Think Google for events. Search by where you live / travel, time/ date range, keyword. Find person/ organization with events you would like to go to/ attend remotely. Subscribe and get future events and updates sent to your Outlook calendar / PDA calendar automatically. As a person trying to schedule your next cub scout pack meeting, check calendar.com to see when a good date would be based on "related groups'" calendars (e.g., other organizations in your town, like school, church, sports leagues, etc.).
The question of finding "related" calendars is interesting. Note that Cesar suggests exploiting existing physical communities for this information. Of course, with most of my friends carrying out data entry for Friendster, why not just reuse that data? Duh, because it's locked in Friendster.
Friendster, which has the social network data but only primitive communication systems, ends up being a big collector's game.* If Cesar's hypothetical calendar.com could get at that data, it could easily support a scheduling wizard that crawls your social network and suggests times for potential events based on likely interested people, or suggest attendees for an event based on their availability and interest. This is of great value for the user. It would be a good reason for Friendster to create simple APIs (subject to user control so that privacy can be controlled). In fact, if there were useful services like these, I'd happily pay Friendster to make my data available (of course, I am more of an online exhibitionist than most).
Friendster, Inc. probably doesn't believe that's a viable option because it opens up their most valuable asset—the network data of millions of users—to the competition. On the other hand, it also vastly increases the value of that data because it can be used in novel applications that Friendster, Inc. will not be able to invent and implement. Opening up but controlling an API, inviting innovation from small vendors, and then taking over the biggest markets is a good way to make money. It's the Microsoft model. Maybe Friendster should give it a shot.
* Here's a goofy idea for a metric of the value of a social network service like friendster. Simply run a survey to determine what percentage of users have gotten laid thanks to using the service. Call this the score score
. I'd imagine friendster has a pretty low score score, like .001%, but livejournal
much higher, perhaps 3%.